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Himura Kenshin

Himura Kenshin (緋村 剣心?), known as Kenshin Himura in the English-language anime dubs,[4] is a fictional character from the Rurouni Kenshin universe created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. He is the main protagonist of the manga and anime series, as well as the related media in the franchise. When creating Kenshin, Watsuki designed him to be the physical opposite of Hiko Seijūrō, a character that appears in Watsuki's first one-shot manga, "Crescent Moon in the Warring States"; a character with the same name appears in Rurouni Kenshin as Kenshin's swordsmanship teacher.

Kenshin's story is set in a fictional version of Japan during the Meiji period. Kenshin is a former legendary assassin known as "Hitokiri Battōsai" (人斬り抜刀斎?)[note 1] (rendered as Battousai the manslayer in the Media Blasters English anime dub,[4] as Battousai: The Slasher in the Sony English dub,[7] and as The Unsheather on the Japanese kanzenban covers). At the end of the Bakumatsu, he becomes a wandering samurai, now wielding a sakabatō (逆刃刀?, lit. "reverse-blade sword"), a katana that has the cutting edge on the inwardly curved side of the sword, thus being nearly incapable of killing. Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan offering protection and aid to those in need, as atonement for the murders he once committed as an assassin. In Tokyo, he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who invites him to live in her dojo despite learning about Kenshin's past. Throughout the series, Kenshin begins to establish lifelong relationships with many people, including ex-enemies, while dealing with his fair share of enemies, new and old. Through these encounters and relationships, Kenshin begins to find true atonement for his past enabling him to fully conquer his "Battōsai" nature.

Kenshin's character was well received by fans, with his holding the top spot in all reader popularity polls for the series. Critics of the series praised his personality, though some complained about his development during the original video animation (OVA) series, which differs from the manga. A variety of collectibles based around Kenshin have been created, including figurines, key chains, plushies, and replicas of his sakabatō sword.

Creation and conception
Watsuki discovered and used the story of Kawakami Gensai, a hitokiri (人斬り?, literally "manslayer") executed by the Meiji Government. According to Watsuki, when he found that Kawakami maintained a duty to his dead comrades, he decided to create the title character. Since Watsuki's debut work contained a tall, black-haired man in "showy" armor, the creator wanted to make a character "completely opposite" to the debut character and the new character ended up "coming out like a girl." According to Watsuki, he used "no real motif" when creating Kenshin and placed a cross-shaped scar when "not knowing what else to do."[8] At the end of the series, Kenshin appears with short hair. Initially, Watsuki had planned to make his hair shorter before the end, however, he found this to be similar to the character Multi from To Heart.[9] Watsuki based most of Kenshin's abilities on a real swordsman of the Tokugawa period named Matsubayashi Henyasai, who was skilled in acrobatic techniques.[10] During his fight against Shishio Makoto's army, Kenshin is given a new sword with a sheath made of wood. Watsuki decided to redesign the sword to make it look as the first one Kenshin had in the series, though it is more difficult to draw.[11]

During the development of the pilot chapter of the series, Rurouni, Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, Watsuki and his editor argued over Kenshin's speech patterns; they settled for a "slangy" pattern. For the final version of the first Romantic Story, Watsuki adjusted the dialogue; in his view, he made Kenshin sound "more as I prefer him now."[12] Watsuki added Kenshin's trademark "oro" as a placeholder to be an expression of the English speech disfluency "huh". Watsuki notes that he was surprised at how much it caught on, and how much he ended up having Kenshin use the sound during the series.[13] Watsuki also planned to make Kenshin older than 30 years old; his editor commented that it was strange that the main character of a manga for teenagers was so old, so he made Kenshin 28 years old.[14]

In the first Rurouni Kenshin kanzenban, published in Japan in July 2006, Watsuki included a draft page featuring a redesign of Kenshin's character. To make his X-shaped scar more notable, Watsuki made it long enough to cross his nose. Kenshin's hair is tied in two tails, which are flowing to make him look younger, but shorter, to be less androgynous. Watsuki also added a habaki to Kenshin's sword to make it easier to draw by simplifying its structure, while also emphasizing strength.[15] Kenshin's hitokiri look was also redesigned slightly, by making his clothes more damaged and giving him Yukishiro Tomoe's neck scarf.[16]

In the anime adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, Watsuki's designs were combined with the voice talents of Mayo Suzukaze, a female seiyū. In producing the English dub version of the series, Media Blasters considered following suit, with Mona Marshall considered as a finalist for voicing Kenshin. Richard Hayworth eventually was selected for the role, giving Kenshin's character a more masculine voice in the English adaptation. Additionally, Marshall was selected to voice the younger Kenshin during flashback scenes. Clark Cheng, writer of the Media Blasters dub script, said that localizing Kenshin's unusual speech was a difficult process. His use of "de gozaru" and "oro" were not only character trademarks that indicated Kenshin's state of mind, but important elements to the story. However, neither is directly translatable to English, and in the end the company chose to replace "de gozaru" with "that I did," "that I am," or "that I do." Kenshin's signature "oro" was replaced with "huah" to simulate it being a "funny sound" that had no real meaning.

Character outline


Kenshin desires to protect every individual from danger without harming others. Formerly known as "the strongest hitokiri," Kenshin is the main target of many old enemies and people who want to gain his title. Thus, he avoids letting others get too close to him personally for their own protection. However, he eventually begins relying on his friends, allowing them to fight alongside him.[18] After the Bakumatsu, Kenshin develops an ongoing rivalry with the ex-Shinsengumi member Saitō Hajime . Although they become partners in the series, they both know that one day they will finish their duel. During the end of the series, Kenshin challenges Saitō to end the rivalry. However, Saitō refuses to fight because Kenshin is different from the time they were enemies.[19]

Throughout the series, a young woman named Kaoru develops strong romantic feelings for Kenshin, and he also comes to love her. Despite his feelings, Kenshin is constantly haunted by the wrongs committed in his past and believes he does not deserve happiness. However, as he notes how Kaoru would feel if he dies, Kenshin decides not to leave her and regains a desire to survive.[20]

If he is not able to protect his loved ones, he begins to shift into his "Hitokiri Battōsai" personality, and takes extreme measures in order save others, caring little for the well-being of his opponents.[21] However, Kenshin avoids changing his personality, swearing that he will never kill. He tries to avoid the deaths of as many people as possible.[22]

Most of the time, Kenshin refers to himself with the extremely humble pronoun "sessha" (translated in the manga by Viz as "this one") and uses the formal verb "de gozaru" (conveyed by Media Blasters by phrases like "…that it is."). He also addresses most women with an honorific which is generally reserved for feudal lords. In the English anime, "Miss Kaoru" is used instead of "Kaoru-dono". When in his "Battōsai" mode, Kenshin changes from being polite to serious; one of his quotes, "de gozaru", disappears and "sessha" is replaced with the more typical brash male pronoun "ore."[21] Throughout the series, Kenshin uses the quote "oro," which expresses surprise or dismay. In the Media Blasters English dub, "oro" has been translated into "huh." "Oro" is kept intact in the Viz manga.

Kenshin practices the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū (飛天御剣流?, lit. "Flying Heaven Honorable Sword Style"), also referred to in the series as "Ultrasonic Sword Style," a fictional ancient sword art. Kenshin's mastery of the style enables him to exercise superhuman speed and reflexes, study and predict his opponent's movements in battle, as well as perform many powerful sword techniques.[23] Among several of his Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū and battōjutsu skills, Kenshin can utilize Shinsoku (神速?, lit. "God-speed"), which allows him to quickly overpower and dispatch opponents with his sword before they have time to react. Most of his techniques were originally intended to be lethal, but Kenshin has since modified his usage of such techniques in accordance with his vow never to kill. To this end, he fights using his sakabatō.[23]

When Kenshin decides to continue his training to defeat Shishio Makoto, he learns the Kuzu-ryūsen (九頭龍閃?, lit. "Nine-headed Dragon Strike"), which simultaneously deals nine strikes to the fundamental targets of swordsmanship. The technique makes guarding and dodging virtually impossible for the opponent.[24] The Kuzu-ryūsen, however, is a byproduct used for the initiation in learning Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (天翔龍閃?, lit. "Heavens Gliding Dragon Flash"; Viz translation - "Dragon Flight of Heaven"), a Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū battōjutsu that surpasses the speed of the Kuzu-ryūsen.[25] The secret behind the technique lies in an additional step with the left foot, which adds instantaneous acceleration and weight to the sword.[26] In addition, if the initial strike is avoided or blocked, the force of the unusually fast slashing motion displaces the air around it, generating a vacuum in its wake and sucking the opponent in; as this happens, the body is spun around for a second strike, with the previous action adding force and momentum to the swing, making the subsequent strike far stronger.[27] Since the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū is only suitable to a wide-framed muscular build like that of Seijūrō's, Kenshin's body deteriorates and he is unable to use it ever again by the end of the manga.[19]

Plot overview
After finishing his job as the murderer "Hitokiri Battōsai" in the Ishin Shishi, Kenshin assumes the life of a wanderer. Ten years after the Revolution, he arrives in Tokyo, where he meets Kaoru. She invites him to stay in her dojo even after she discovers that Kenshin is the "Battōsai".[23] During his residence in the dojo, Kenshin establishes lifelong relationships with many people, including ex-enemies. When Shishio Makoto, the brutal once-successor to Kenshin's position as Chōshū's hitokiri, masterminds a movement seeking to overthrow the Meiji Government, Kenshin leaves Tokyo to stop him.[27] To defeat such a foe, Kenshin is forced to resume his training and mend his relationship with his teacher Seijūrō, who taught and took care of Kenshin, originally named Shinta (心太?), in his childhood. That childhood training was interrupted when Kenshin decided to protect the people of Japan.[24] After finishing his training, all Kenshin's friends reunite with him and help him to defeat Shishio and his army.[28]

Months later, a man known as Yukishiro Enishi starts attacking all people that Kenshin meets as an act of revenge for the death of his sister Tomoe.[29] At this moment, it is discovered that Kenshin was married to Tomoe in the Bakumatsu but accidentally killed her when trying to rescue her from a group of assassins.[30] When Enishi finds out about Kenshin's feelings towards Kaoru, Enishi sets out to kidnap her. He succeeds and leaves behind a professionally-made decoy of Kaoru with a sword in her heart, making everyone believe that she had been murdered.[31] Kenshin falls into severe depression and runs off to a village of wanderers to mourn.[32] However, he breaks out of his depression after his friends discover Kaoru is alive. The group goes to rescue her on Enishi's island.[33] A battle between Kenshin and Enishi follows and when Kenshin wins, he and Kaoru return home.[34] Five years later, Kenshin is married to Kaoru and has a son named Kenji. After an encounter with Kaoru's student Myōjin Yahiko, Kenshin gives his sakabatō to him as a gift for his coming-of-age.[35]

Appearances in other media

Kenshin first appears in two chapters of Rurouni, Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, the pilot chapters of the manga, in which he arrives in Tokyo and defeats several groups of villains attacking families. In these stories, Kenshin is given a similar personality to the one he has in the series, but his name is unmentioned.[12][36] Later, in the movie Samurai X The Motion Picture, Kenshin meets a samurai named Takimi Shigure, who tries to overthrow the Meiji Government and avenge the deaths of his family during the Bakumatsu. Kenshin encounters Shigure and defeats him in order to avoid the start of a war.[37]

In the OVAs, Kenshin is given a more humanized design and a different personality. There are also numerous changes to his life story compared to that of the manga, including the way he received his X-shaped scar in Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal.[38] In Samurai X: Reflection, as time passes, Kenshin becomes tortured anew by the guilt of leading a happy life after such a destructive past. He makes the decision to wander again, and Kaoru strongly supports him, promising to welcome him home with a smile and their child. Kenshin eventually becomes ravaged by an unknown disease. However, he decides to assist in the First Sino-Japanese War as he had promised the Meiji Government. After the war's end, Sanosuke discovers a gravely injured Kenshin on the shore, and arranges for Kenshin's return to Tokyo and Kaoru. The two finally meet, and Kenshin collapses into her arms as he clutches her to him. Kaoru then notices Kenshin's scar has faded away, signifying his death.[3] Nobuhiro Watsuki, after watching the last OVA, was quite unhappy with how the story ended, saying that "Kenshin went through so much crap and deserved a happy ending."[13]

Kenshin is a playable character in all of the Rurouni Kenshin video games,[39] including Jump Super Stars[40] and Jump Ultimate Stars.[41]

Tokiko Tsumura, one of the main characters of Buso Renkin, another series created by Watsuki, is based on the design of Kenshin as a hitokiri. Watsuki commented that Tokiko is the female version of the "Hitokiri Battōsai" when he drew her face.[42]

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